Summary: Run away. Doubt it will work. Embrace God who first embraces us. Three responses to the call to "Go and Make Disciples". This sermon explores how three well-known biblical figures and how they answer God’s call to go.
Sermon for CATM - September 9, 2007
Answering the Call to Go
It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was my first week at Evergreen in May of 1985.
There was a huge summer team who had signed on for the summer missionary program at the mission. Our purpose was to connect with youth on the streets and to gain some experience in missions.
A senior staff member, who shall remain nameless gave us our first assignment: “Go out onto the streets and find someone...a stranger...to share the gospel with”.
As soon as the words left his mouth my hands got clammy. The hair on the back of my neck was standing at attention. My mouth went dry. I started to sweat. A lot.
I whispered to myself: “He’s kidding right? He’s gotta be kidding. There’s no way...” The group dispersed. I noticed some of my colleagues were pumped. They had always wanted to be given the freedom and license to go and do this. A few of them behaved like they were happy with the assignment, but it was something they’d done a hundred times so they were looking for a real challenge. Most others, like myself, were very quiet and had a look in their eyes that I could identify with. That look, of course, was sheer terror.
So, I gathered my courage and went out on to the street by myself. I looked around. As I walked down the street I tried to imagine myself walking up to a complete stranger, starting a conversation and then finding a way to witness to them about Jesus.
Problem was, I couldn’t actually imagine anything at all other than running away in the opposite direction.
So I went into a restaurant, ordered a ginger ale, and sat there, by myself, until it was time to go back to Evergreen with my head hung low. Now it might seem like I’m bragging...but I assure you, I’m not.
I say this to illustrate three things:
1. Reaching out to others will stretch us, sometimes beyond our comfort zones
2. Trying to do something you were not made to do is next to impossible
From that experience I learned that I need to get to know people first before I can share faith with them. That works for me.
Another story. Another response to God’s call.
Jonah: God sent Jonah to Ninevah. Nineveh was an enemy of Jonah’s country, Israel. So, Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh.
Jonah tried to escape God. He tried to travel elsewhere, by ship. But there was a terrible storm. Jonah knew that God had caused the storm. So, he asked the sailors to throw him into the sea.
But Jonah did not drown, because God sent a whale (large fish) to swallow Jonah. Then, Jonah prayed to God again. He thanked God, who had rescued him (Jonah 2). And God caused the fish to return Jonah to the dry land.
So, Jonah went to Nineveh. He warned the people that they must confess their evil deeds to God. Otherwise, God would destroy their nation.
The people obeyed Jonah. So, God forgave the people in Nineveh. God did not destroy Nineveh at this time.
But Jonah was sad, because Nineveh was his enemy. Jonah wanted God to destroy Nineveh. But God told Jonah that God cares about the people from every nation.
So, the Jonah Approach to God’s call to go and be a blessing to the people is this: Run Screaming in the Opposite Direction
The flight impulse can be a strong impulse. Of course impulses are caused by something. There’s a reason why we run.
Perhaps we feel inadequate. It may be that some of us here, if you’ve been here for the past few weeks as we’ve been looking at the subject of reaching out to our community; it may be that some of us find the challenge too difficult because we struggle with our self-esteem.
The image we have of ourselves, the self-concept we carry with us may permit us to feel o.k. being in church and part of a faith community such as CATM. But when we compare ourselves to others, particularly, we just cannot for the life of us bridge the gap between the challenge of being used by God for good and the way we’ve always understood ourselves.
Looking at it that way, Jesus’ very command of “Go and make disciples” doesn’t really seem to recognize the fact that many of us feel like there’s just no way we can go.
Maybe we feel that we’re actually in our own way, and in order to be obedient we’d have to stumble over ourselves
to get to where He wants us to go .